Pope places note of peace in Jerusalem's Western Wall

Pope Benedict XVI placed a handwritten appeal for peace into a crack of Jerusalem's Western Wall on Tuesday in the latest stop on his eight-day visit to the Middle East.

Benedict stops short of apology in Holocaust memorial visit

Pope Benedict XVI places a note at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site in Jerusalem's Old City on Tuesday. ((Ronen Zvulun/Associated Press))
Pope Benedict XVI placed a handwritten appeal for peace into a crack of Jerusalem's Western Wall on Tuesday in the latest stop on his eight-day visit to the Middle East.

The Pope stood before the contentious religious site and said a prayer in Latin before placing the note, which, according to the Vatican, read: "Send your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East, upon the entire human family."

He also visited the old city's gold-topped Dome of the Rock and met with the Grand Mufti, the Palestinians' senior Muslim cleric. Later in the day, the Pope is scheduled to perform mass to thousands in an open-air ceremony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Following is the text of the note placed by Pope Benedict in the Western Wall in Jerusalem, as released by the Vatican:

God of all the ages, on my visit to Jerusalem, the "City of Peace," spiritual home to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, I bring before you the joys, the hopes and the aspirations, the trials, the suffering and the pain of all your people throughout the world. God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, hear the cry of the afflicted, the fearful, the bereft; send your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East, upon the entire human family; stir the hearts of all who call upon your name, to walk humbly in the path of justice and compassion.

"The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him" (Lam 3:25)!

Benedict is also scheduled to visit Bethlehem and meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank on Wednesday.

On Monday, the Pope cut off early a meeting in Jerusalem with Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi, the chief judge of the Palestinian Authority, after the cleric launched an unscheduled 10-minute tirade against Israel's recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli media reported the Pope, who looked visibly uncomfortable during Tamimi's speech, shook the cleric's hand, then walked out of the meetiing before it was officially over.

The Vatican has billed the Pope's visit as a pilgrimage of peace, but it is also widely viewed as an attempt to improve strained ties between the Roman Catholic Church and the Jewish state.

His visit has generated controversy, particularly among Jews who were angered earlier this year after he revoked the excommunication of an ultra-conservative bishop who had denied the Holocaust.

Pope 'speaks to us like a historian': Knesset speaker

During a speech on Monday at Israel's national Holocaust memorial in Yad Vashem, Benedict paid tribute to the six million Jews murdered during the "horrific tragedy" of the  Holocaust.

"May the names of these victims never perish," he said. "May their suffering never be denied, belittled or forgotten."

But the German-born pontiff stopped short of offering an apology on behalf of the Catholic Church and the German people for their roles in the Holocaust. The Pope also never mentioned the Nazis directly in his speech.

The Pope's forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism and acknowledgment of Vatican mistakes have softened Jewish anger over Bishop Richard Williamson's Holocaust denials earlier this year. But another sore point has been Second World War Pope Pius XII, whom Pope Benedict has called a "great churchman."

But during his visit on Monday, Benedict shunned the main part of the Holocaust museum, where a photo caption says Pius did not protest the Nazi genocide of Jews and maintained a largely "neutral position."

Avner Shalev, chair of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Directorate, said he was disappointed the Pope didn't go further with his words. Meanwhile, Reuven Rivlin, speaker of Israel's Knesset, lambasted the Pope for not asking for forgiveness on behalf of "those who caused our tragedy.

"We're talking about the Pope, who is also a representative of the Holy See, which has a lot to ask forgiveness from our people for," Rivlin was quoted as saying in an interview with Israel Radio on Tuesday.

"And he is also a German, whose country and people have asked forgiveness. But he himself comes and speaks to us like a historian, as an observer, as a man who expresses his opinion about things that should never happen. And what can you do? He was a part of them."

The Pope was a member of the Hitler Youth and served in a German anti-aircraft unit during the Second World War, but has insisted he never fired a shot. He deserted the German army in 1945 and was briefly held in an American prisoner-of-war camp.